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20 Ways to Strip Away Stress

Stress can wreak havoc on both your physical and emotional health, but the solution may be simpler than you think.

Trying to balance long days at work, some semblance of a social life, and still carve out some much-needed "me time" has created a crisis. We're more stressed out than ever, and it's affecting everything from our productivity to our personal relationships; it may even be slowing down your metabolisms. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million adults are struggling with some type of anxiety disorder in the United States alone, and while stress is often treated as primarily a psychological issue, it has a profound effect on our physical health, as well.

The results of a study published in the journal Obesity reveals that, among a group of 2,500 middle-aged men and women, those who experienced chronic stress were significantly more likely to be overweight or obese than their low-stress counterparts.

Fortunately, it may be easier than you think to nip that stress in the bud before it starts having a detrimental effect on your life. Start taking control by discovering how to strip away stress and take your health into your own hands by ditching the 50 Little Things Making You Fatter and Fatter!


Go For a Walk

Couple walking

A lack of physical activity and mounting stress are inextricably intertwined, so if you're feeling stressed out, try taking a walk for a few minutes. Not only does exercise boost your endorphin levels, reducing stress and increasing feelings of well-being, the mere act of moving can provide some respite from those negative thought patterns that contribute to your stress.


Have a Glass of Tea

Woman drinking tea

Taking a break with some tea may help you break out of that stress-induced rut. The meditative act of steeping and drinking tea can help you slow down and take the focus off what's stressing you out. Even better, the results of a Japanese study suggest that, among a group of 2774 adults, those who regularly consumed tea had less stress than those who opted for other beverages. If you're unsure which tea will yield the best results for you, try checking out the best teas for weight loss.


Take Some Deep Breaths

Woman breathing

Getting a handle on your stress could be as easy as taking a few deep breaths. Slow, deliberate breathing fills your lungs with oxygen, decreasing the anxious feelings that often accompany being out of breath, and can slow a racing heart in the process. Researchers at the University of the Basque Country have even found that deep breathing exercises helped reduce cortisol levels in both male and female study subjects, suggesting that those deep breathing exercises may help you slim down, too.



Couple smiling

Stress may make it hard to find things to smile about, but putting on an ear-to-ear grin may actually make you happier, if you can muster one. Researchers at the University of Kansas have found that college students who smiled during stressful tasks had significantly reduced physiological responses to stressful stimuli than those who stayed stone-faced.


Repeat Some Affirmations

Woman meditating

The phrase "fake it 'til you make it" doesn't just apply to self-esteem; it can also be a helpful idea when you're dealing with unwanted stress. Cheesy as they may seem, research published in the 2014 Annual Review of Psychology reveals that self-affirmations can actually yield positive psychological results, increasing confidence and mitigating stress along the way. If you can't see yourself standing in front of a mirror declaring yourself worthy of love and admiration, that's no problem; writing down your mantras works just as well.


Grab Some Protein

Bowls of nuts

While stress may have you reaching for the nearest sugary or salty snack, protein is more likely to provide the relief you're looking for. Foods like salmon, turkey, nuts, seeds, and cheese are all natural sources of the amino acid tryptophan, which can increase feelings of relaxation and well-being. If you don't have the time to prepare a full meal, one of these delicious protein shake recipes can help you load your diet with protein in no time.


Put Your Phone Away

Cell phone

Checking social media may make you feel connected to your friends and family even when you're far apart, but for many people, constantly checking our phones can actually increase stress. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, individuals who were exposed to stressful events via their friends' social media feeds were likely to internalize said stress. The solution? Put your phone away whenever possible and connect with the people in your life the old-fashioned way.


Crank Some Music

Man listening to music

While your Adele impression may not be winning you any fans, listening or singing along to your favorite songs can provide some serious stress relief. Research published in PLoS One reveals that study subjects exposed to exterior stressors lowered their heart rate and salivary cortisol levels faster after listening to music than after listening to other supposedly relaxing sounds, like running water.


Get Creative

Woman painting

Flexing your creative muscles can make a major difference when it comes to your stress level. According to the results of a study published in the journal Art Therapy, creating art significantly reduced the production of stress hormone cortisol in a group of adult subjects. So, if your stress level is starting to feel unmanageable, try breaking out those paint brushes and channeling your inner Picasso.



Woman stretching

Stretching may not be a huge calorie-burner, but when it comes to stress, this relaxing method of self-care can change your mood in seconds. Not only can stretching fight back against any physical pain that could be making you feel stressed, research suggests that stretching can prompt an increase in feel-good hormone dopamine while reducing cortisol levels.


Visualize a More Relaxed Self

Woman in field

Imagining a less-stressed self is the first step to actually feeling less stressed out. Researchers at Texas State University have found that visualization exercises and guided imagery are effective means of increasing feelings of self-control and reducing stress. So, if you're struggling with stress, try imagining the cool, calm, collected self you'd like to be.


Talk It Out

Friends talking

Talking about your stress is a great way to get it under control, once and for all. Having a friend, family member, or therapist lend an ear during particularly stressful times in your life can make it easier to work through your stress in a healthy way. A diverse body of research also indicates the importance of social support on our stress level, as well as our risk of anxiety and depression, so don't be afraid to talk it out when you feel your stress level reach an uncomfortable level.


Hang With Fido

Couple walking dog

Your four-legged companion is more than just man's best friend, she might just be key to getting your stress under control for good. Research suggests that the act of petting an animal can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and decrease psychological stress. In fact, researchers at Japan's Azabu University found that simply looking at a pet can increase levels of oxytocin in humans, lowering stress and increasing bonding between a pet and their parent in the process.


Spend Some Time Alone

Woman reading

While spending time with friends and family can help some people manage stress, it's just as important to build some solo time into your routine. Spending time by yourself can help distance you from stressors like work, relationships, and that never-ending to-do list while providing you time to engage in some self-care activities, like reading, exercising, or treating yourself to a spa day.


Go Bananas

Woman peeling banana

Hunger can often trigger feelings of stress, making people feel panicky or anxious in the process. Fortunately, the perfect snack to stop stress in its tracks is something you probably already have in your kitchen: a banana. Not only are bananas highly satiating, their high potassium content helps fight back against cortisol-induced potassium depletion and can help quell stress; research published in the British Journal of Nutrition reveals that increasing dietary potassium helped reduce tension and depression in study subjects. Before you reach for a snack, make sure to cut the The 20 Unhealthiest Carb Habits For Your Waistline from your routine!


Enjoy a Massage


Reduce tension and wash that stress wash away by treating yourself to a massage. Physical stress, like stiffness and sore muscles, can often trigger intense psychological stress, which, in turn, makes your physical symptoms worse. Fortunately, massage can help treat both the cause of your stress and some of the symptoms associated with it, from pain to illness. While relaxation may be your main reason for treating yourself to a massage, that's far from the only benefit you'll get; researchers at Spain's Antoni De Gimbernat Foundation and the Instituto Medico Vilafortuny reveals that massage can actually help reduce cellulite, too.



Couple hiking

Want to lower your stress level in a hurry? Try unplugging for a bit. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have linked the blue light emitted by electronic devices to reductions in natural melatonin production, reducing both the quality and quantity of our sleep, and potentially ramping up our stress level in the process. Fortunately, committing to just a few device-free hours a week can make a huge difference in your stress level while minimizing your risk of so-called digital diseases, like gamer's thumb and text neck.


Take a Vacation

Couple on beach

If your job offers vacation time, take it! According to Project Time Off, more than half of American adults don't use their allotted vacation time, contributing to a culture of stressed-out individuals who find themselves getting sicker, fatter, and less productive as their stress builds. Even if you don't have the cash for a lavish trip, spending a few days at home without the pressure of work looming over your head can do you a world of good.


Have Sex

Couple in bed

There's nothing wrong with a little bump and grind, especially when it comes to your psychological health. Not only is sex a decent workout, burning around 100 calories per session, it can boost your body's oxytocin production, reducing stress and increasing overall feelings of well-being. Research conducted at Pennsylvania's Wilkes University suggests that sex can make you physically healthier, too; students who reported having sex a few times a week had higher levels of disease-fighting antibody immunoglobulin A in their saliva than those whose sexual schedule was more sporadic.


Get Some Sleep

Woman sleeping

Sleep is virtually unbeatable when it comes to stress relief. Getting a good night's rest can help your body fight off illness, reduce physical pain, and make the constant undercurrent of stress in your life a thing of the past. Researchers at the University of Chicago and the Free University of Brussels have also found that just a single night of reduced sleep can increase cortisol levels the following day, meaning there's no time like the present to start improving your physical and mental health with some deep, relaxing sleep.

You may not be able to add hours to your day or make your job easier, but there's still plenty you can do to get your stress level under control and improve your health in the process. Start on the path to a more relaxed you by getting adequate rest, some regular exercise, and add in the 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss to your regular routine!

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah
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